China’s most bankable celebrities—magazine edition


Zhang Ziyi moves magazines.

Last week’s Southern Metropolis Weekly answered that question with a survey of a number of popular magazines. Zhang Ziyi topped Gong Li as the celebrity most influential with readers.

SMW drew several conclusions from the results. First, judging from the 1-2 finish of Zhang and Gong, it’s a good idea to have the backing of Zhang Yimou. Celebrities who disrobe in the name of fitness exert a power influence over magazine buyers. Scandals help, too.

The survey looked issues of nine fashion magazines and two entertainment magazines published between January and October this year: Bazaar, Esquire, FHM, Cosmo, ilook, Trends Health, Maxim, Fashion Weekly, Ming, Total Entertainment and Southern Metropolis Weekly itself. The impact was judged based on the number of cover appearances, the spike in sales, and some vague measure of importance.

It’s all very unscientific, so the following list should be used for entertainment value only. Comments are summarized from the SMW.

1. Zhang Ziyi 章子怡

  • Covers: 3—October’s Bazaar, July’s Trends Health, and Total Entertainment #17
  • Sales spike: 20% for the Bazaar cover
  • Importance: Bazaar‘s 21st Anniversary issue insert, Trends Health 7th Anniversary issue insert

2. Gong Li 巩俐

  • Covers: 3—January and August Cosmo, October’s Maxim
  • Sales spike: 20% for January’s Cosmo
  • Importance: August’s Cosmo was the magazine’s 14th Anniversary issue

3. Vicki Zhao 赵薇

  • Covers: 4—April’s Trends Health, May’s Bazaar, September’s Cosmo, and February’s Southern Metropolis Weekly #7
  • Sales spike: 34% for Southern Metropolis Weekly; the cover was actually a paparazzi shot of Zhao with her new boyfriend
  • Importance: Just circulation numbers

4. Jiang Wen 姜文

  • Covers: 2—September’s Esquire, October’s Cosmo. [Note: The survey’s limited scope means that it missed out on Jiang’s astonishing ten covers in August and September surrounding the release of his new movie. Danwei had a selection; The Beijing News commented on the similarity of the covers and reports.]
  • Sales spike: 37.6% (Esquire rose 15%)
  • Importance: The Esquire cover (see below) was an effort on par with the covers of the American edition.

5. Xia Yu and Gao Yuanyuan 夏雨、高圆圆

  • Covers: 2—May’s ilook, Southern Metropolis Weekly
  • Sales spike: 15% for ilook
  • Importance: The entertainment press followed the Xia-Gao relationship after they collaborated on Meng Jinghui’s play, “Beautiful Encounter.” The third player in the scandal, Xia Yu’s girlfriend Yuan Quan, also became a selling point on magazine covers.

6. Carina Lau 刘嘉玲

  • Covers: 1—Ming #6
  • Sales spike: 12%
  • Importance: She’s even older than Gong Li, but she still sells magazines.

Fan Bingbing on the cover of SMW

7. Fan Bingbing 范冰冰

  • Covers: 3—August’s Trends Health, Inaugural issue of Fashion Weekly [Actually July 2006], February 14’s Southern Metropolis Weekly
  • Sales spike: 21.6% for Southern Metropolis Weekly
  • Importance: According to SMW, Fan Bingbing is the only film star to grace the cover of Fashion Weekly, but a brief Baidu image search pulls up covers featuring stars like Tong Dawei and Tom Cruise.

8. Zeng Li 曾黎

  • Covers: 2—March’s FHM, January’s Maxim
  • Sales spike: 10% for Maxim
  • Importance: She’s not important, apparently, but her layouts have been interesting.

9. Han Han 韩寒

  • Covers: 3—Twice on Southern Metropolis Weekly, once on Total Entertainment
  • Sales spike: 10% for October’s SMW
  • Importance: Dude’s an author who’s cool enough to make the entertainment pages while remaining aloof from it all.

10. Xiong Dailin 熊黛琳

  • Covers: 1—March 28’s Southern Metropolis Weekly
  • Sales spike: 39.1%
  • Importance: Buxom actress linked to Hong Kong star Aaron Kwok—what’s not to like?


Wang Feng, editor of Esquire

Following the rankings is an interesting interview with Wang Feng, editor of the Chinese edition of Esquire (时尚先生). Wang talks about the shoot for the Jiang Wen cover and how he chooses celebrities to feature in the magazine:

Zhang Yan: Could you talk about Jiang Wen, who occupies fourth place on our list? It’s not easy getting him on a cover—how’d you do it?

Wang Feng: We first contacted him in April, but it dragged on until September. And this was the sole cover I was involved in from start to finish this year. Usually, our covers are shot in Beijing—it’s a bit cheaper that way, about 10,000 to 20,000 yuan. But we put 40,000 yuan into Jiang Wen’s cover. We booked the entire People’s Theater, rented eight generators and eight movie lights. When Jiang Wen entered, he was shocked speechless. Then he asked if we were shooting a movie. One shot took us eight hours.

Zhang: Wow. Why did you do things so special for him?

Wang: Probably because of his position in the industry. And because he’s cocky, we wanted to do things professionally to impress him. And it turned out that he canceled the other shoots he had planned for the day and put all his effort into ours.

Zhang: So what’s your standard for choosing a cover model for each issue?

Wang: To tell you the truth, we have a lot of pressure each month in choosing someone for the cover. Our scope is stars and celebrities, and while commercial magazines are heavily dependent on the market, there aren’t all that many stars to choose from with that celebrity status; every year, the people on around three or four covers sacrifice the marketplace. For example, Charles Zhang on the latest issue, or even Anthony Wong Yiu Ming earlier. The issue with Wong was meant to commemorate Hong Kong’s return, and we also could have gone with Jacky Cheung, but I had more personal connections with Wong….

Zhang: How about this: what other stars could you choose for the cover of Esquire?

Wang: Ang Lee and Stephen Chow.

Zhang: The faces in this list are all familiar, and during my interviews people even told me that they were overexposed. Besides, one thing that’s unexpected is that some fairly popular people, like Li Bingbing or Huang Xiaoming, weren’t on the list….

Wang: Those stars are still rising, or they are just temporarily hot. Their position in the entertainment world hasn’t been determined yet. Stars that have true commercial value are really only these few.

Zhang: Are there people who would pay to be on the cover?

Wang: Yes, but we haven’t had this precedent yet, and I don’t even know how much they’d have to pay to get me to act. Besides, paying to be on the cover is what minor magazines do. Not just anyone can get into Esquire. Before they give us a call they’ll look into their hearts and think whether they’re really qualified. People like those Super Boys definitely won’t make that call.

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